Your first poetry book deal may be a ways down the road, but creating a chapbook of your work can help you establish an audience in your local community and beyond. Typically running around 40 pages in length, these brief poetry collections are an easy, inexpensive way to express yourself and share your work with others. While your chapbook may begin as a project for family, friends and fellow writers, it can ultimately open the door to a larger following for your poetry.
Selecting the Content
Because chapbooks are frequently read in one sitting, you should compile a unified group of poems that create an overarching theme or tell a story. Picking poems because of emotional attachments or just because they've been published can result in a haphazard group of pieces rather than a blend of related ideas. As you read your work, you should evaluate the technical elements of the poems, such as mood, tone, rhythm and imagery, while also looking at the broad body of work for recurring themes. Try making a list of each poem's strengths and weaknesses to determine which pieces represent your best work.
Sequencing and Ordering
The order your poems appear in should come from deliberate consideration, not just shuffling the papers around and hoping for the best. Because your first few poems can make or break the chapbook for readers, putting one of your strongest pieces at the beginning can ensure that your style and talent grab them from the first line and set the tone for the rest of the book. You might try organizing your poems in a way that tells a story, placing similar pieces together into sections or breaking a long poem into several shorter ones and positioning them through the collection.
Formatting Your Manuscript
One benefit of making a chapbook is that the format is easy to produce and inexpensive to print. Chapbooks typically are published as 5.5-by-8.5-inch booklets that are stapled or stitched together, resembling a pamphlet. Once you've revised your poems, lay out the pages on a word processing program with two pages per sheet of paper so the booklet can be folded in half. Including pictures, artwork and illustrations can also lend your personality to the poems and support the chapbook's theme. You can then print your desired number of copies and staple them.
Publishing Your Poetry
Ultimately, the goal of making a chapbook is to share your poetry with others. Try finding opportunities to promote your work in a local poetry community. For example, you could sell your chapbook at a book or art shop or give a reading at a coffee house or library. There are also numerous small presses that exclusively publish chapbooks, as well as contests run by university creative writing programs and literary journals that publish their winners. Be aware of specific criteria for submissions, including length, format and any required entry or reading fees.